Nutrition Corner: Mix it up!

October 22nd, 2015 11:05 am

Many of us look for easy-to-make healthy, yet affordable, recipes for dinner. We need easy recipes because of time or lack of know how, or just not wanting to deal with multiple step recipes and more than four ingredients.

There are a number of short-cut helpers available in supermarkets. Short-cuts helpers can be pre-made mixes, where you just need to add one or two ingredients and dinner’s done. They also can be pre-cut and seasoned vegetables or even mouth-sized pre-cut meats.

Sometimes these can be expensive and have higher sodium content.

The food label tells us how much sodium is in a product as well as the percentage of daily value or how much it contributes to our daily needs. Most adults need to eat less than 2200 mg a day and some 1500 (adults age 51 or older, all African Americans and anyone with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.) According to the Center for Disease Control, we eat over 3400 mg on average. And about 90% of children consume more sodium than they need.

Many of us think the salt shaker is the culprit. Actually, about 65% comes from processed foods and the sodium is already in the food before you buy it. Those are foods that are almost ready-to-eat.

Making mixes gives you the opportunity to reduce the sodium. Here is a recipe which uses a mix made of low-sodium ingredients.

Chicken and Rice Casserole

1 serving (3 Tbsp.) of rice flavoring mix

1 cup of uncooked brown rice

2 ½ cup water

1 pound chicken, cooked and cubed or 2 – 6 oz. cans of chicken

1 – 16 oz. frozen broccoli, steamed.

First, make rice flavoring mix. Next, add 1 serving of mix to 1 cup brown rice, 2 1/2 cups water. Bring water, rice and seasoning to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 50 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Note: 1 cup of uncooked brown rice makes about 3 cups of cooked rice. To use white rice instead of brown rice, reduce the water to 2 cups and reduce the cooking time to 20 minutes. Add chicken to cooked rice and heat an additional 5 minutes. To serve, toss in cooked broccoli.

Rice Flavoring Mix: Combine 3 tablespoons low-sodium chicken bouillon granules, 1/2 cup parsley flakes, 1 tablespoon celery flakes, 1/2 cup instant minced onion, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place in a container. Use 3 tablespoons mix for each recipe. Makes 6 servings of mix. If you cannot find low sodium bouillon granular, simply crush the cube.

Serving: Four 1 cup servings

Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at